By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Review-tini: Skyfall (Spoiler-Free)
I am not embargoed on this film… but it’s so early in the film’s domestic press rollout that a full review would do a disservice to other press, audiences, and the movie. And if you are looking to avoid spoilers – and you really should for this film – I’d avoid every review I’ve seen from the UK so far.
That said… here is what I do want to put on record.
This is, for me, Sam Mendes best work as a movie director. One could easily argue that American Beauty is a better movie. But for me, that was a very theatrical work with a very heavy influence coming from the late great Conrad Hall. Skyfall offers a stronger hand from Mendes than I have ever seen in his film work before. Mendes’ negative signature for me has been extreme story choices followed by pulled punches. Not here. This movie feels to be of one piece… of one attitude. That is a success for me. And the action, when he chooses action, is skillful… which I didn’t expect, even with great second unit support.
Roger Deakins continues to earn his stratospheric rep. This is the first Bond film shot on digital and while if you are looking to pick at it, you can certainly find things that suggest electronic cinema, you’d be obsessing on a couple of trees while ignoring the gorgeous, organic-looking forest. This may be the most visually pure Bond film ever shot.
Great supporting cast, many of whom are, so far, unexpected and undefined for audiences. Don’t want to spoil anything. But it’s a great parade of actors who never feel like they are lining up for another Harry Potter all-in event.
Also a lot of fun and not to be spoiled are Bond series references that are, in this 50th year of Bond, a pleasure.
This Bond film is, like the last two pictures really, an anti-Bond film. Bond continues to be a hard, brooding guy. And this film goes far deeper into the introspection… but unlike the last two, it gets very specific.
There is no sign of what we would traditionally think of as a Bond Girl. But there are some beautiful women. Costume Designer Jany Temime dresses the cast – Bond is in couture suits – impeccably… better than I remember in a series of film where everyone has always looked great. It feels fresh. And it sure doesn’t hurt to have Naomie Harris making Kim Kardashian look like an amateur on the curves circuit. (Naomie is the only person in the cast other than Craig to have her trainer listed in the credits.)
One of the great things about Brooding Bond this time is that the villain in the piece, Bardem, brings him to life. It’s like watching a great heavyweight fighter getting some real competition for a change and stepping it up. (The same is true of another actor in the film who goes toe-to-toe with Javier.) It is a pleasure – and it’s been a long, long time – to see the great actor used as The Bad Guy in the Bond film used for his strengths and not just to chew up scenery. The Uber Villain isn’t a traditional Bond villain with traditional Bond goals. As the third of three inward-looking Bond films, this one feels like the most effective in terms of that goal. (I’ll still take Casino Royale as the best of the three.) And by the time it is over, I felt satisfied about that journey.
And now, I am ready for the next group of Bond films that are bigger, brasher, funnier, and smartly back to the idea of a gadgety, fun Bond who has his martinis shaken, not stirred, sleeps with all the hot women, and blows some really cool stuff up. Happy to have Daniel Craig in the middle of that mix. And I’m not talking Moonraker silly. For me, the template for big, brassy Bond is Live & Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me, where we first saw Jaws. Give me the dumb and the smart. Figure out a way to do wild gadgets that feel connected to modern reality. I don’t mind a remote control car, so long as it is used with a clear purpose, not just as a gag.
I’m looking forward to seeing Skyfall again – I’ll do a real review after I do – and to the future of the series.